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"X" Marks the Spot:
Map Resources on World Wide Web

Curriculum CenterDon't lament the changing nature of the Internet -- capitalize on it! Because the Net immediately responds to political changes that forge new boundaries, your students can create and examine online maps that are more up-to-date than any of those in textbooks. No more searching through ancient atlases and dusty encyclopedias -- you'll find everything you need in the virtual world of the Web!

Maps.gif Bette Morrill, an eighth-grade math teacher at Marshwood Junior High School in South Berwick, Maine, developed a unique map activity that is currently in its second year. She subscribes to a mailing list that publishes information about earthquakes all over the world and has her students plot the occurrences on a classroom map. This real-time scientific study makes use of the speed of the Internet and reinforces map-reading skills!

"I start out the year by asking my students where they think the majority of earthquakes occur," says Morrill. "Next, we go over the basic scientific principles involved. I then review with them latitude and longitude, and have them practice on the world map located in our room. Each week the students print off the individual listings and chart them according to the magnitude of each earthquake. We use push pins to track the events."

"After about two months, patterns start to emerge," Morrill explains. "I then divide the map into sections and ask the students to choose the quadrant in which they think the next earthquake will occur. We keep a running total as to which student's quadrant has the most 'hits.' This starts a heated race to see who will win overall." Although the students sometimes struggle at the beginning of the project, Morrill reports that most are experts by midyear, and they are even more interested in the project. At that point, they start to see patterns forming, and they see the results of their work.

"I believe that this activity has tremendously helped the students (and myself) with their map skills," says Morrill. "By the end of the year, many students know where all of the places on the map are without using the longitude/latitude references. Then I take out a map of the tectonic plates of the earth, and the students compare this with their results. We end up with almost identical maps." Many of the students have remarked that they have enjoyed the activity.

To subscribe to the mailing list used by Morrill, send an e-mail message to [email protected]. In the body of the message, type "Subscribe" and your name. [For example: Subscribe John Smith] The list will respond with the necessary information.



Mailing lists are one way to bring the resources of the Internet into your classroom. Another is to have your students create maps online. Interactive Web sites that take the input of users and search for just the right map materials can be even more useful in the classroom. Follow your "sense of direction" to these online mapmakers.

Map Machine from National Geographic is one of the best mapping resources on the Internet. In addition to its enviable collection of traditional maps, available as a part of the "Map Machine Atlas," the site offers what it calls a "View from Above." In this section, maps made with information from satellite observations use color to vividly illustrate the types of vegetation of areas and the depth of bodies of water. Map Machine also has political maps that show the dividing lines between countries and states and physical maps that display the types of land to be found in a given area.

MapQuest is one of the best-known map resources on the Web. At this interactive site, enter locations that you would like to find and maps are generated for you. The maps include highways, streets, and bodies of water.

Yahoo! Maps is another site that provides MapQuest maps upon request. The more information you can supply, the more accurate the maps will be. On the MapQuest site, you may zoom in or out on a map to find other locations in the vicinity.



One of the most complete sources of maps on the Internet is the Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection from the University of Texas Library Online. This site offers maps of the world, Asia, Europe, the United States, and more. Each area has a listing of the types of maps that you might choose from. Historical, political, and topographic are just a few of the special maps you will see.

The Great Globe Gallery on the World Wide Web is one of the coolest geography sites on the Internet. The extensive list of maps provided here includes almost every type of map imaginable; even 3-D images of Earth grace this dynamic site. Don't overlook this colorful alternative to flat, outdated maps!

Perhaps you are looking for maps to use with your students as worksheet and test materials. Outline Maps from the Silver Burdett Ginn Teacher Activity Center has unlabeled maps of Africa, Asia, North America, the world, and more. You might print these maps and use them with your class to practice naming various countries of a region, states, or to label landforms, etc. A very practical and valuable resource!


Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World





Originally published 11/16/1998
Last updated 06/02/2011